No Feeling is Final. . .

There was a profound and moving article in the New York Times Style Section Sunday (2 August, 2009) by Laura Munson. She describes her married life  humming along and then, just like that, her husband declares, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. . . .” This is not a fight-for-your-husband story. It is not a “throw-the-bum-out” story. It is much more complex.

Munson describes the bitter/hard edge of truth and revelation this way:

“You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.”

How she handles her situation is interesting. Not with great heroics or drama, certainly not with any cunning and schadenfreude found on any show that starts with the title  “The Housewives of  . . ” Munson handled it with calm. That shocked me the most. She stayed calm. Oh, I’m sure she cried and despaired at times, but she kept moving ahead.

It brought to mind a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet:  “A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them – they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.”  And that made more sense, from both perspectives, her’s and her husband’s.

There is another line from Rilke: “No feeling is final.” We can change our minds. It happens as we grow, change, evolve, devolve, love and hate in turn. We can feel everything we need to feel before we know how we want to feel and cling to that emotion.

No sunset is the same as another

No sunset is the same as another we grow. Or change. The friend we could not live without is gone, we are sad, we are angry, we become different. No feeling is final. I'll leave you to read the excellent article on your own, but in this blog, here is the Rilke poem, all of it. It's a great awakening to those who live on both sides of an emotional fence.

God Speaks
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She teaches communication skills, including writing and giving presentations as well as how to make and use an art journal, even if you can’t draw.


13 thoughts on “No Feeling is Final. . .

  1. ” Rilke: “No feeling is final.” We can change our minds. It happens as we grow, change, evolve, devolve, love and hate in turn. We can feel everything we need to feel before we know how we want to feel and cling to that emotion.”
    Added to my quote collection (including your comment), and will pass it on to a friend who is just going through a relationship brake-up. Thanks for the wise words.

  2. I wonder if Laura Munson leaned on God during this time of challenge and stress? If she didn’t, I believe she missed out on a wonderful resource. He is always there. If she did, why not mention it in the article? People need all the help they can get.

    • Many people prefer their spirituality to be an internal factor. Or maybe she’s not religious, or thought of this as a problem she needed to work on using her own resources. And I’m not sure the almighty is a “he.” But whatever the reason, it was an interesting story of survival.

  3. You’ve honored me with your Rilke quotes. Thank you. Rilke was read at our wedding. I love his “a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.” Thanks for your kind words, re: my essay, and for your good work. The essay is actually a short version of a book I wrote during our marital “adventure.” It looks like I have a book deal! so I’m hoping to have the longer version out there soon to help people going through what we did.

  4. Another quote from Rilke that I have long enjoyed is the one that has to do with love the questions. While answers are a nice thing to have, questions take us farther and deeper.

    “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

  5. Pingback: Changing Places » Blog Archive » Relationship

  6. What a moving story. The surprise for me was that it had a happy ending. My own story was similar in many ways, but things didn’t work out quite so well for me. Ah well, these are the trials that make us compassionate, complex beings. Good for her.

    • And it was her take on the story. It was well-written, but there was a much missing as said. I’m sorry your story didn’t work out. But you are such a wonderful person now, it seems you have dealt with it so well.

  7. Very powerful article Quinn and putting this in the context with Rilke’s poems, his thinking, makes this even more probing.

    The way Laura M. described this episode in her life I found somehow undercooled. But then I’m sure that says more about me than about her.

  8. Thanks for this — I passed it along to a friend who is going through a rough patch with her husband right now. I’ve also recommended your blog to another friend who is starting up a coaching business here in SoCal.

    • Thanks, I appreciate your spreading the word. The NYTimes story haunts me on many levels–including the one that she stood on to write the story, but it is her choice of reactions that just wows me.

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